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Jamaica Plain Resident Honored For Service

David Aronstein of Jamaica Plain is the Massachusetts recipient of AARP’s most prestigious volunteer honor, the 2009 AARP Andrus Award for Community Service. 

Enhancing the lives of many

“AARP has long celebrated the achievements and important contributions of dedicated volunteers across the country,” said AARP Massachusetts State President Linda Fitzgerald.  “David has enhanced the lives of so many in his community; he is the epitome of what the Andrus Award is all about.”

A tireless advocate for older lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) in Boston, Aronstein founded Stonewall Communities – entirely on an unpaid, volunteer basis – a nonprofit organization that offers educational opportunities, housing options, and support networks for LGBT seniors. 

“David jump-started the Greater Boston social movement for LGBT persons 50 and older,” said Sue Reamer, a Stonewall Communities board member who nominated Aronstein for the award.  “He created a needed pallet of social services, lifelong learning programming, and advocacy. David’s ideas, energy and actions to bring about this network of new organizations are inspiring to all who know him.”

As a volunteer, Aronstein founded or has been helping to create services including:

·        The LGBT Aging Project, which provides advocacy and training for elder services providers.

·        Stonewall Communities Lifelong Learning Institute at Wheelock College, which addresses societal homophobia and ageism through education.  

·        Stonewall Communities Connections, a planned member services program to help older LGBT seniors remain independent in their Boston area homes.

·        The Senior Pride Coalition,a group that aims to bring greater visibility and support to the growing LGBT senior community.

“It’s actually a double battle – we need to ensure that the aging world meets the needs of LGBT seniors, but also that the gay community recognizes the needs and hopes of older members,” said Aronstein. “Stonewall Communities has not been just about helping people now, but it’s also about looking ahead, to see what we can do to prepare for our future.”

“LGBT seniors disproportionately experience isolation, limited social networks, and lack of pre-planning for health care and financial security – all of which affect quality of health,” explained Alice Fisher, another Stonewall Communities board member who also nominated Aronstein for the award.  “Too often these individuals are routinely denied equal access to the economic benefits, services, legal rights, and social safety nets that other seniors may take for granted.”

“David had the vision to address the lack of services and marginalization faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons fifty and older,” said Fitzgerald.   “AARP commends him for filling a void in his community, and shining a light on this often invisible part of the population.”

More about David Aronstein

Working with nonprofits for more than 30 years, Aronstein was part of the senior management of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts from 1985 to 1993.  While working there, Aronstein experienced an ‘a-ha’ moment that led him to his next role as an advocate for LGBT seniors. 

“I was working through this epidemic, when I began to realize that not everyone was going to die – that there would be survivors living into old age,” he recounted.  “I became interested in thinking about gay people as they got older.”  

Seeing a need for future planning, he founded Stonewall Communities in 1997, and currently serves on the volunteer board of directors.

Aronstein received a Bachelor of Arts from Yale University, a Masters Degree in Social Work from Smith College, and is a certified Retirement Housing Professional through the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. 

About the AARP Andrus Award

The AARP Andrus Award for Community Service is given annually to one AARP member in every state.  In Massachusetts, the selection committee for this year’s award included Linda Fitzgerald, state president, AARP Massachusetts; Mary Kay Browne, Senior Project and Program Director, Executive Office of Elder Affairs; David Crowley, President and Founder, Social Capital Inc.; Kurt Czarnowski, regional communications director, Social Security Administration; Carol Greenfield, founder and president, Discovering What’s Next; Louise Myers; Executive Council member, AARP Massachusetts; and Claire Redmond, Executive Council member, AARP Massachusetts.

The committee evaluated nominees based on a range of criteria, including how their volunteer work positively impacts the lives of individuals 50 and over, how their work improves the community, and how they inspire others to volunteer.  To be eligible for the award, nominees must be AARP members, must have accomplished the volunteer service for which they are nominated during the period of January 1 – December 31, 2008, and must have completed the service without pay.

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